Coaching Case Study: Finances After the Divorce

David was married when he was 25. He and his wife waited a few years and then had two kids. All was going well until it wasn’t. I met David after his divorce and provided coaching to help him gain control of his finances and adapt to a post-divorce financial outlook he hadn’t expected. This kind of change is a common reason folks hire a life coach.

Clarifying the problem

David was suddenly responsible for making alimony and child support payments, while still feeling responsible for adding to the kids’ college fund. He’d been so busy working, he left his wife in charge of the money until now. He had no idea where to start.

Setting reasonable goals

In coaching, setting goals is an important part of the process. David’s goal was to understand how manage his money in a way that supported his long-term commitments – college for the kids – while still planning for his retirement that is about 25 years away.

Using coaching to get it done, started with clarifying his values around money and his kids. It was clear he wasn’t about to leave them behind; despite the divorce, he was committed to his plan to provide money for college for both.

We also un-covered his retirement dreams. Much different now that he was divorced, he could still imagine a scenario where he would get remarried and spend his “golden years” with a partner. He wanted to make sure he had a home to live in that wasn’t mortgaged so he’d have money for some travel.

Finding his truth

During our discussions, it turned out the real reason David didn’t want to manage the marriage money is that he was afraid he would make a mistake and potentially lose money because he really didn’t know how to invest. In fact, his fear kept him from learning about interest rates and saving benefits and other things like how to invest in the stock market. As we dug into that fear, he discovered he’d inadvertently learned several bad behaviors from his father who did lose money.

We worked to peel back the layers to discover he truly did want to learn more about money, but he needed to be free of the anxiety attached to it. That revelation was key to removing the stigma he’d attached to it and from there, he proceeded on a path of learning about different investing strategies – and other tools he had access to through his job – and he was able to build a plan for the long term.

Holding David accountable

Because David was inclined to shy away from money at first, building in accountability was key. It was when we realized he kept avoiding some of his homework, that we were able to uncover the messages he’d had from his father. After that, David always took away a weekly assignment and by the end of our time together, he’d mapped out a financial plan that he felt comfortable with today and he knew he could change over time.

Coaching provided him with a safe place to address an issue that was driving him nuts. Once we figured out why it was so hard (his dad), his energy shifted and caught fire. While the amount of money he made didn’t change, his relationship with money did and suddenly money wasn’t a bad thing; it was something that could help his meet his commitments and realize his dreams. Managing his finances after divorce was no longer a challenge.

Don’t let your fears hold you back. Give coaching a try. At least try a complimentary consultation to see if coaching is right for you. It’s free and easy.

The Mysterious Case of Anne Penn

When Katie was born, the joke was she was born unto a family twig. We have no real family tree. I mean we do but it’s small. My dad’s family were definitely not breeders. Sure my dad had three kids, but if you asked him, that was because he had good genes (do you know how much I wanted to keep the typo of “good jeans!?!?”). But that was it. My uncle Don, my dad’s brother, hasn’t had any children. There’s a lot of family in Idaho, but they are removed from us and we were never really close. My uncle lives there now though and he’s happy as a clam, er um, fisherman. And that makes me happy! 

[Note: I wrote this earlier this week because I’ve received so many questions about her. Quick update to this story below, under the graphic.]

[Second Note: November 9, 2018, Laurie has asked that I remove the link to the Jaycee Dugard article. Done.]

The first time was in early spring 2017.

I was working with Todd Lindsay on Unmasking a Killer.  I love working with folks like Todd; they start out with the usual questions but then, as they start digging, they come back with amazing questions make you totally respect their hard work and dedication. Todd asked great questions and when we got to where he was taping, there were even more things that impressed me. He really did a great job with the series. But one day, he did manage to stop me cold.

The conversation went something like this:

Todd: “I talked with your dad’s niece the other day…”

Me: “Really? How was that?”

Todd: “Well, I’m trying to understand her role in all this.”

Me: “Yeah, me too since my dad doesn’t have a niece.”

Todd: “Wait, what? Who was I talking to? What the heck?”

Me: “I have no idea. It’s my dad and his brother. There are no other relatives. We have a very small family.”

Todd: “Okay, it must be a kook. No problem. Crossing that off my list.”

The conversation was a little longer – we speculated a bit about who the heck it might be, but that’s the gist of it.

We talked about some other things and I hung up the phone completely convinced there was a nut job on the loose. The name I was given was Laurie XXX (since publication, Laurie has asked that I remove her last name. Seems reasonable so moving to xx’s) and that name meant nothing to me. When I Googled, the only thing that popped was a woman in Lake Tahoe who was involved in the Jaycee Dugard case and that seemed weird. She had been quoted in the story. It supported our kook theory because some people like to attach themselves to drama. And yet, we have a totally different murder that passed through our lives, so it could happen.

Fast forward to just after DeAngelo is arrested.

It’s May and I was still in the office so it must have been the very first week of May. I get a call from a newspaper in Tahoe. Didn’t think a thing about it. Returned the call to find they had just interviewed Lyman Smith’s granddaughter. I said that’s not possible, I have his only granddaughter in my house –  her name is Katie. This time though, the reporter had a different name: Anne Penn. My friend Patty is a freaking Internet sleuth and she figured out what was going on! She did it while I commuted home – it was awesome. She was able to untangle the mystery.

Since then, I’ve finally figured out a bunch of stuff that didn’t make sense to me. At my first court visit, I was surprised by the issues raised about Anne Penn. There was much to learn. The fact that this story ends with a rather incredible irony is just another brick in the wall. The hardest part for me is she has been representing our family and that should not have happened.

Among us, you guys know I’m not someone to call people out. I believe there are always two sides to every story and generally, I’m not litigious or punitive. Of course I have strong opinions, but I will also listen and modulate my ideas based on thoughtful discourse. I work hard to live by the Golden Rule and work hard to be truthful. I am doing this blog because Laurie has caused harm to people while acting as a member of our family. On behalf of my dad, Charlene and my grandfather (and uncle for that matter), deserve much better. I don’t want their reputations tainted by Laurie’s behavior. So here we go.

Despite what she’s told people, she does not represent us. 

  • Anne Penn is Laurie XXX in real life. My immediate family didn’t know anything about her before May 2018. Seriously. Not a damn thing. If you read her protestations, she’s concerned I don’t think she exists. Of course she does. My issue is she’s been representing our family for years and she is neither been asked to do that nor has any place doing that.
  • Laurie didn’t tell anyone in the Smith family that she was writing or wrote a book, including my Uncle. We learned of the book after DeAngelo’s arrest. This is particularly interesting since she has met with so many other people. This one truth is probably the most important truth. For me, this behavior supports other folks’ stories of Laurie being deceptive. Here’s why: if she been interested in being credible, she would have contacted us. She had DECADES to establish a relationship with us.
  • Laurie apparently acted as the “Smith family representative” in Northern California without our knowledge (yeah, I have proof from a few people). Again, she was super busy getting involved in all the things, and yet still never called her Uncle Don (dad’s brother) or us.
  • Laurie was responsible for some amount of the information given to Colleen Cason*, which she readily admits, and cites Colleen as writing a series of articles that she assumed was true. There’s a delightful passage (sarcasm) she shares between she and Colleen speculating about how the killer chose Charlene. It’s delightful because Laurie thinks this is so cool, she puts it in her book! Here’s a sample that’s beyond nuts and she writes that she even talked with Paul Holes about it! I’m so embarrassed people think she’s a Smith!

Colleen and I agree that there could be a connection to how ONS saw Charlene and one possibility is he could have seen her in Sacramento.
[page 456 from the self-published second edition]

  • Laurie also describes communicating with several law enforcement folks who thought she had standing in the case. Her updated book has a list of folks she spoke with – it reads like a who’s who of law enforcement. Every one of the folks I’ve spoken with has been unhappy about being deceived. She was also listed as the next-of-kin with two DA offices. Explains so much about the lack of information we were receiving. She’s since been removed as next-of-kin.
  • My Uncle Don barely knows her (he’s older than she is and the marriage that connected her to our family caused a divide in our families).
  • Laurie’s maternal grandmother married my grandfather – her name was Veonia (the nickname we were told to use was Max. Nuff said.). She was a horrible person who did everything in her power to keep us away from my grampa. It was awful. We often had to “surprise visit” to see him because otherwise Max would block it. Then, if she was there, we had to listen to stories about her family. Of course, nobody cared. We wanted to see our grampa. It was hard. (Org chart below.) Even Laurie noticed my grampa was different from her people:

Before this tragedy happened my grandfather had been happy and more accessible than others in my family.
[page 15 from the self-published second edition]

  • Stepmonster Max hated my mom, my uncle and us kids. I believe she accepted my dad and Charlene because of the mythology around them – they were pretty people. Also, my dad greased the skids to keep everyone happy. He was a smart cookie.
  • Laurie refers to Max’s cabin in Tahoe with much affection. We weren’t allowed to go there. We did one time when I was really young and were never invited back. This one was a sore point for my mom and dad for many years.
  • According to folks she spoke with, Laurie lied to people about her role in our family to obtain interviews. Many people are extremely upset that she isn’t who she said she was – or that she was writing a book. In her book, she’s done a better job of explaining who she is, but this was as she was researching apparently.
  • In her book, there are a lot of photos. There isn’t one of my dad’s family or my grampa’s other grandchildren – his biological grandchildren – because we weren’t included. There aren’t even photos of Laurie with my dad and Charlene. Because I know she wasn’t anything to them. My dad did not care for Max or her family – but he was a politician and had great manners.
  • The risk anyone takes in reading her book is Laurie had no context for understanding my dad and Charlene. I’m sure she heard stories from my grampa but he barely knew Charlene. And more importantly, my grampa was a marshmallow. The sweetest, squishiest man out there. Likely why he attracted the shrew that was Max. This is to say, anything my grampa understood about my dad’s life (and I don’t think it was a lot), would go through his filter with rose-colored glasses . I wish I was more like him.
This is Katie. Shes not related to Anne Penn
Did I mention my daughter is SO related to me? Look at her face. Totally taking it all in – skeptically!
  • Laurie writes of my grampa’s 90th birthday party. It was the only time in my whole life, that we were invited to something with our grampa. I did attend and it was a nice party hosted by Max’s son and wife. I have no idea if I met her. The whole party was their family and friends. That was fine, grampa had a great time. I have a very tiny memory of it because I was totally out of my element.
  • Obviously, Laurie is entitled to her memories, her opinions and her book. I am fine with all that.
  • I have reached out to Laurie to discuss some of these things. She’s provided excuses and rationale. None of it seems legit. From my point of view, her actions have been about her and her book.
  • Yep, I’m super-bummed I missed all this time with my grampa. Had they let us have a relationship with him, we might have helped him heal. He certainly went nuts when he met his first great-granddaughter. He was over the moon.

Now the irony. I feel compelled to share this ugly, family story.

Laurie speaks of how close she was to my grampa – and if so, yeah, he deserved all the love he could get – but here’s the thing, the actions of her family tell a different story. I hate that I have to share it but it’s important that folks understand. It makes me feel sick to even tell it.

Grampa and Max lived in Curtis Park in Max’s house. It was her house. That’s important. When Max died, the way I understand it from my Uncle Don, the house was left to Laurie’s mom with the caveat that my grampa could live there for the rest of his life. Cool. Very cool. But sadly, that’s not what happened. Instead, Laurie’s mom told my grampa he had to start making repairs to the place; substantial repairs. He needed to replace the plumbing and the roof. She held him financially responsible. That ended up putting him out – because it wasn’t his investment – and he had to find a new place to live. At that point, Max’s family “dropped him” cold. He’d spent about 30 years with them (and not us) because of Max’s manipulations and this multi-generational family who loved him so, kicked him to the curb. The man Laurie calls grandfather. Of course, we moved in quickly to help with the transition. Grampa was deeply hurt by being abandoned.

Not one of those people from Max’s family – from his 90th birthday party –  including Laurie, were there when he died.

Not one.

So excuse me when I read a passage like this from Anne Penn/Laurie XXX’s book and I just want to scream.

For any who have said they did not have a family member with my name I beg to differ. My name is Laurie. It does not surprise me nor would it if Lyman Robert’s (Jen note: my dad) grown children have no memory of any of our names since we were not raised near each other. Lyman Senior (Jen note: my grampa) was grandfather to 7 grandchildren and several great grandchildren from our side of the family. …He served as grandfather to me and my brothers, to my children and all of the children in our family. I am grateful.

[pg. 480-481 from the self-published second edition]

It’s not what you say, it’s what you do that indicates character.

No Laurie, we don’t have anyone in our family with your name.

We good.

You do you. The non-Smith version. Thanks.

Anne Penn and the Golden State Killer

[Update: It’s Sunday the 28th around 4pm. For some reason, Laurie finally saw my blog about the Myths and started getting agitated. It’s an odd position, since I know she barely spent any time with my dad, likely even less with Charlene, and she’s has no understanding of their lives or ours. Her responses are generally the same. Here are a few so she will know you could see them:

On the Myths blog I wrote, her comment at the very bottom.

And then several on Reddit.

And we have private messaged on Twitter – very similar tone. She’s a victim, she’s a person, she was raised by my grampa. This doesn’t explain the behavior, her comments only beg, over and over, to accept her as a victim. What she never explains is why she didn’t want anyone to contact us. Why she needed to be in everything and why, WHY, her family left my grampa when Max died. All the kids he had raised just walked away. If there was so much damned love, why did they hurt him so badly?

There’s a passage Laurie wrote in the comment on my Myths blog. It confirms what I’ve asserted here. Laurie writes, “I had a great relationship with him for over 30 years. He was our grandfather.  I was there when he was sick and in intensive care, I was there for every birthday he had until my grandmother passed away.” And just like that sentence ends abruptly, so did his relationship with Max’s whole family.

I’m not pissed now. I was really pissed then. I am a softie for geezers – I adore them. When Laurie goes on and on about how she lived with grampa’s grief, I get it. I saw it. It’s how he felt when they all kicked him to the curb.]

*Oh! I’m planning some fun podcasts around her series. Stay tuned. I’m targeting early January and I will do them all at once! Promise!

The Day We Learned My Dad and Charlene Were Dead

My grandmother’s piano sat in our front room. It’s dark cherry and well-worn and every Smith kid had to take piano lessons. I wasn’t that great at playing conventionally, but I was good at playing a song by ear. I could read music and loved all things Billy Joel and Elton John. I aspired to nail Funeral for a Friend that starts with what sounds like organ music and ends with pure joy (yes, go listen to it – I’ll wait). The piano was the backdrop for the bombshell my mom was about to drop.  

March 16, 1980

That Sunday afternoon we got a strange call. It came on the mustard-yellow landline that hung on our kitchen wall (sporting the typical tangled 12-foot cord so someone could try and seek privacy). The call was from Phil Drescher. My dad’s law partner. He never called us. Ever. This was my mom’s house and the Smith kids were often considered to be wild children by the upper crust. We hung out with the affluent, but we absolutely were not. While Phil’s kids went to private school, we were JC Penney-wearing public-school kids being raised by a divorcee. Ya know, riff raff.

“Mom’s not home right now,” I told Phil. “May I take a message?” I wasn’t complete trash, we had been raised to one day be ready to have dinner with the President should the opportunity ever arise.

“No,” he sputtered, “I’ll call back.” And that was that. But I knew it was weird. It was mid-afternoon. I was home with my 15-year-old brother Jay. Gary had gone up to my dad’s house to mow the lawn. We lived at 6103 Sutter Street which was about a mile – as the crow flies – to my dad’s house at 573 High Point Drive. It was a way he could make some money as a 12-year-old.

Mom’s house is there in the lower area by the school and dad’s house is up on High Point.

Not long after the mystery call, my brother Gary came bursting into the house and ran directly to his room. We could tell he’d been crying. Mom looked strained and Jay and I came over to meet her at the foot of the piano. I was sitting on our bean bag chair and Jay was standing beside me.

“Your father is dead,” she started.

Just like my mom to just lay it out there. There was a beat while we took in that information.

“Did Charlene shoot him?” I asked. My dad had a conceal carry permit and he kept his gun in his trunk. I always worried one of their fights would escalate into a deadly scene. Not because I thought Charlene wanted to kill him, but she’d do anything to create drama and gunfire seemed like something she just hadn’t tried yet.

One time, my dad called up to the house to break up a fight and Charlene did something that night that I have remembered my whole life. My dad was on the front lawn because she had shoved him out (and probably because he thought walking away would deescalate things). Anyway, before I could do anything to calm things down, Charlene ran into the kitchen and grabbed something. It was the silverware tray that separates the knives from the steak knives and the forks and spoons from the salad forks and dessert spoons. It was loaded with silverware. She took that sucker and snapped it at him sending the silverware hurling – each spinning in rotation as an independent object – toward my dad. Not one piece hit him, but I always thought the move was bad-ass. With the right lighting, it would have looked spectacular. If someone uses this in a movie, please give her credit.

“No,” my mom said calmly. “Charlene is dead too.”

“What!” I nearly jumped out of the bean bag. Jay was quiet.

“Gary found them in the bedroom. The police are there now trying to figure out what’s happened.” I honestly don’t think she said more at that point. She really didn’t know much and had a kid in tears in his room. Jay immediately bolted out the door and took off. He had been preparing to go for a run and this news was all he needed to hit the streets. A few minutes passed and mom went to check on Gary. I had a different plan.

“I’m going to go see if I can find Jay,” I yelled as I grabbed the keys to the VW Bug (yep, the same one you see in those black and white photos). I hopped in the car and headed to Loma Vista, a main drag that connected our neighborhood to others. I figured he was heading toward his good friend’s house. I don’t remember if I was crying. I think I did when she told us. I’m sure I did. But I wasn’t crying when I was driving. I was scouring the streets looking for my brother and yet I knew where I was going to end up. I had to get up to my dad’s house to see if what mom said was real. I headed over.

As I drove up the hill, I could see all the activity. Dad’s house was only about half way up the block. Police were milling around and the yellow crime scene tape was up across the front of the house. Neighbors were outside talking and watching the activity. It was true. They were dead.

Why does it always seem like these folks don’t know what they are doing. Crime scenes always have cops milling around. What’s up with that?

I went back home without Jay. He had made his way to a family friend’s house and mom was glad he was there. They were good people and no matter what, she felt comfortable knowing he was with them. I honestly don’t remember what Gary did after he ran to his room. I was able to learn from mom what had happened. She told me in a quiet moment that we didn’t realize would be one of our last for awhile as police, lawyers and relatives began assembling.

Gary had gone up to mow the lawn.

When we got there, the front door was unlocked so he walked in. It was just as he had expected. Just after noon, he figured they might be eating lunch. Instead he heard their alarm clock going off. If you remember, those awful digital alarm clocks were loud and required an intervention to get them to turn off. He started walking to the back of the house but paused. Maybe his timing was off and they were just waking up. He needed to give them privacy. But after a beat, the alarm kept making noise and he didn’t hear anyone moving. He continued back to the master bedroom.

In the bedroom, he could see two people in the bed. The comforter was pulled over their heads. Gary walked around to my dad’s side of the bed (he slept on the side closest to the sliding glass door) and shut off the alarm. He gently lifted a corner of the comforter. It stuck a little to my dad’s head as he pulled. All Gary needed to see was the scar on the shoulder we all recognized as belonging to my dad. Using the phone on the nightstand, Gary called 911 and police asked him the address. Gary had to run out front and look at the numbers because we hadn’t memorized the house number back then. He came back in and picked up the kitchen phone and gave them the address. They directed him to wait outside so he immediately went out.

While he was waiting, friends of my dad and Charlene, Judge Lewis and his wife Claire, spied Gary sitting on the wall. They lived up the street in the development. They stopped and asked Gary what was going on and stayed with him. Coincidentally, my mom had been at a friend’s house in the same development and she decided to drive by to make sure Gary had gotten there okay and was getting the job done. She passed the house and saw all the activity, so she turned around in the church parking lot and headed back up. She asked to people standing on the side of the road what happened and one motioned “dead” by pulling his flattened hand across his neck.

“Which one?” she asked.

“Both,” he said. Mom parked the car.

All I really remember from that point on, was chaos. People and process and questions and movement. The newspaper wouldn’t break the story until the afternoon edition on Monday. But it didn’t matter. It was a small town and news traveled fast. My dad and Charlene were dead. It would be decades before we understood what had really happened.

My family will kill me for this. One of the few pics I could find. Us at my mom’s house at roughly the age of dad’s death. This was either the Thanksgiving before or after. The women in my family are notorious for gaffing photos. The boys, on the other hand, look adorable. That is my mom’s mom, my favorite person of all, Lila.

Open Letter to the Male Survivors of the East Area Rapist

I’m not sure I want to know what happened inside my dad’s house. Larry Pool shared a lot with me and I know they both went through hell. But the way the story goes in my head, my dad was bound and as Charlene was being led away, I know his mind was reeling. After the shock of being caught off guard passed, I can feel his brain racing to figure out how to get free. Both my dad and Charlene were fighters. He would have considered what was on his night table or in the drawer. He would have strained against the bindings to do something, anything, to help her. Like I said, I don’t want to know if that didn’t happen. I need to believe this is what happened.

Yesterday I wrote about the strength of the female survivors. But the truth is, there are male victims as well.

I can’t imagine the cognitive dissonance those men felt as they balance their own survival instinct with the need to protect their loved ones. They were trapped, struggling with the pain of being bound. They could hear their wives or daughters being hurt. One man died trying to protect his daughter. I don’t know if he’s been officially included by law enforcement, but for those of us who are involved, we include Claude Snelling as another victim.

Add your voice to the story.

As I struggle to understand the complex feelings a woman can feel after being attacked, I can only imagine how it must feel to be the dad, the husband, the boyfriend. The rage and powerlessness my dad felt must have been mind-blowing. I’m not sure our brains were meant to handle this kind of conflict.

We haven’t heard from the men in this story. I’d very much like to. I will keep your story confidential if you choose, but I’d like to share the experience and how your path to healing has worked – or not worked. It’s as simple as sending me an email at jennifer at

I’m hoping we can all learn from this. Understanding how the men have dealt with this in the last 40 years is just another step in our healing.